South hopes to integrate more black history throughout the year, not just the month
It’s finally February, and you know what that means: it’s Black History Month, otherwise known as our annual attempt to cram more than 400 years of history into 28 short days.
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It’s finally February, and you know what that means: it’s Black History Month, otherwise known as our annual attempt to cram more than 400 years of history into 28 short days. Black History Month is an integral fixture in American culture. It is our time to celebrate and recognize the achievements of African Americans who have helped to shape the country we live in today. At the same time, however, the existence of Black History Month itself serves as a reminder of our lack of recognition in the other eleven months out of the year.
Why celebrate black history for one month when we have the opportunity to discuss it thoroughly all year? Instead, we as a community should foster a more inclusive, more diverse curriculum in order to study the history of our great nation to its fullest extent.
In a recent Twitter poll out of 34 voters, 26 percent of people feel that black history and culture are recognized well in our school, while 50 percent argue that we don’t recognize it nearly enough. This is what Black History Month, has, for the most part, served to temporarily remedy. Originally established in 1926 as “Negro History Week” by African American scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson, it was created to celebrate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, as well as highlight African American history, which was generally excluded from curricula.
Today, we still celebrate Black History Month for the same reasons. Dr. Jay B. Marks is a mentor for the National Urban Alliance, an organization striving to ensure equal opportunity of education for all students. He argues that Black History Month serves to fill a void that exists eleven months out of the year. The problem with this is, after February 28, we go right back to virtually ignoring black history and culture, when meanwhile, as Dr. Marks put it, “black students are black in March, and they’re black in September,” and therefore are vulnerable to feeling invisible in history class for the remainder of the school year.
The key to longlasting change in the discussion of black history, as well as the history of other minorities, is to see a change in both the English and the history curriculum.
South’s English curriculum consists of titles largely by white male authors, with the exception of a few women. Shakespeare, Salinger, Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, Huxley, and Joyce. These are the brilliant minds that shaped British and American literature, and are required readings from the school’s 2017-18 program of studies. The only two works that are required readings in the program that are written by black males are “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B Dubois and “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.
That all may change. Currently, the English department is working to review the curriculum, a process that will take several years. “I think every year we make little steps in inclusiveness,” English Department Head Harry Campion said. “Does it happen perfectly? Of course not. I’m hoping that with this curriculum review we can make a few longer strides.” In the future, perhaps we will strike a balance between those great classics like “Adventure of Huckleberry Finn”, while introducing great works like “Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. It’s one thing to read an excerpt by a prominent black authors. It’s another thing to involve oneself and navigate an entire novel, just like one would for “Catcher in the Rye” or “Frankenstein”.
American history teacher James Cooper said more can be done to improve the way history courses are covered.
“I feel like we do a pretty good job, but the truth is, I think we can do better,” Cooper said. “To me it seemed like, well it’s kind of good that you’re covering it (black history), but it feels like it’s like an extra credit, or it’s like this is the regular history, then this is like your way of sort of appeasing me and covering a little dab here and a little dab there.”
The fact is, we as a society still need Black History Month. The Black Association for Student Education is continuing the initiative to implement more of a presence of Black History month at South, through trivia activities and posters throughout the school, according to club President Imani Sugick. The future of a fully inclusive curriculum, however, will steer us toward a future where the history of all groups are celebrated year round. Nothing, however, is accomplished overnight. Developing a more inclusive curriculum requires incremental change.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to designate a month to appreciate the history of an entire ethnic group, but rather embrace that group, as well as all groups, year-round. Black history is inseparably woven into the dynamic fabric we call America, and it’s key to celebrate it as so. This issue, we hope to emphasize the importance of providing a diverse set of perspectives, and perhaps incite smarter, more meaningful conversations that will benefit us both as a student body, and the community as a whole.